Philosophy of NOMINALISM - Rejecting certain elements

Here is the article on Philosophy of NOMINALISM - Rejecting certain elements. It includes; Abstract objects, universals, Types of Niminalism about universals and TYPES OF NOMINALISM ABOUT ABSTRACT OBJECTS

Philosophy of NOMINALISM - Rejecting certain elements
In philosophy, nominalism has two meanings. The more traditional definition of nominalism, which came about during the Middle Ages, involves a rejection of universals, entities that can be represented by different objects. The second, more modern, use of the word pertains to a rejection of abstract objects, objects that are not temporal or spatial. Therefore, nominalism can be seen as the opposite of realism (the belief that universals do exist) and as the opposite of Platonism (the belief that abstract objects do exist). It is possible for one to believe in one type of nominalism and not the other. Both types of nominalism deal with antirealism because they both deny the existence of universals or abstract objects, and therefore also deny the reality of these things. In dealing with things that are alleged to be abstract objects or universals,
nominalism takes two approaches:

1.Nominalism denies that the alleged entities exist.
2.Nominalism accepts that the entities exist, but claims the entities are not concrete or particular.


There is no set definition of what an abstract object is; however, the common explanation is “an object that does not exist in space or time and is causally inert” (it is assumed that only objects that exist in space and time can partake in causal relations). This definition, however, is not without its flaws. For example, while language and games are abstract, they are both temporal (since languages can change, develop, and come into being at different times). While philosophers have provided other definitions of an abstract object, nominalism is driven by the rejection of spatiotemporal objects that are causally inert.


Nominalists distinguish between universals and particulars. According to nominalism’s definition, universals refer to anything that is instantiated (meaning represented through an actual thing) by multiple entities. If it is not, then it is a particular. Both a universal and a particular can instantiate an entity, but only a universal has the ability to be instantiated by multiple entities. For example, objects that are red cannot have an instance, but with the universal “redness,” any object that is red is an instance of that universal. Realists consider properties (like redness), kinds (like the material, gold), and relations (like between-ness) to be examples of universals. Nominalism about universals rejects this notion.


Those who follow nominalism about universals believe that only particulars exist. To explain the existence of relations or properties, two accepted strategies appear throughout philosophy: the first is to reject that these entities exist, and the second is to accept the existence of these entities while denying that the entities are universals.

Trope Theory 

Of the latter form of arguments, one of the most popular theories is known as trope theory. In trope theory, one believes in the existence of properties (thereby accepting the existence of the entity) but believes that properties are specific entities known as “tropes.” Philosophers consider these tropes to be particulars, much like an individual peach or banana is its own particular. Therefore, the yellowness of a banana is not considered to be a universal, but rather a specific, or particular, yellowness that pertains only to this banana. The banana possesses this yellowness, which makes it a trope, because the yellowness is not the result of a universal being instantiated.

Concept Nominalism and Predicate Nominalism 

Two other types of nominalism about universals are concept nominalism (also known as conceptualism) and predicate nominalism. Concept nominalism states that yellowness does not exist and that an entity, such as a banana, is yellow simply because it is in line with the concept of “yellow.” Similarly, in predicate nominalism, a banana is yellow as a result of the predicate that “yellow” is applying to it. Therefore, there is no “yellowness,” only the application of the predicate yellow.

Mereological Nominalism and Class Nominalism 

In another type of nominalism about universals, mereological nominalism, the property of being yellow is the total of all yellow entities. Therefore, an entity is yellow because it is a part of the aggregate of those things that are yellow.Similarly, class nominalism claims that properties are considered to be classes. Therefore, the class of every yellow thing and only yellow things is the property of being yellow.

Resemblance Nominalism 

Resemblance nominalism claims that yellow things do not resemble each other because of the fact that they are yellow; rather, it is the fact that they resemble each other that makes them yellow. According to resemblance nominalism, a banana is considered yellow because it resembles other things that are yellow. Therefore, definite resemblance conditions must be satisfied by all members of a specific class.


Nominalism about abstract objects is broken into two types: nominalism about propositions and nominalism about possible worlds.

Nominalism about Propositions 

Entities within nominalism about propositions can be broken into two categories: unstructured and structured. Unstructured propositions are sets of possible worlds. Within these worlds, functions have the value of True (arguing the \ proposition is true) and the value of False (arguing the proposition is false).
One theory of nominalism about propositions claims that the roles connected with propositions are in fact played by objects that are concrete. A theory pertaining to this idea is the notion that sentences take on the role of propositions. Philosopher Willard van Orman Quine claimed that “eternal sentences” (sentences with a constant truth-value throughout) make for better truth-bearers because they are independent of place, time, speaker, etc. This, however, leads to a problem for nominalists because the very idea of an eternal sentence is an abstract object.

Semantic Fictionalism 

Another option in nominalism about propositions is to deny the existence of propositions and all entities that have theoretical roles. If this is the case, sentences that involve the existence of propositions that seem to be true must actually be false. Even if a sentence is false because there are no propositions, however, it can still be used as a descriptive aid. This descriptive aid allows one to clarify what he wants to say and allows for the representation of parts of the world’s structure.

Nominalism about Possible Worlds 

The possible worlds theory is a much-debated philosophical idea that accounts for other realities by claiming that this world is only one of many possible worlds that exist. A nominalist can assume that there are no possible worlds or that possible worlds are not abstract objects. One nominalist approach is to believe that not every possible world exists, and that only actual possible worlds exist. One can think of actual possible worlds as being sums of spatiotemporal objects that are related to one another, which is actually the sum of concrete objects.
Another nominalist way to look at possible worlds is to view what is possible as a combination of elements (universals and particulars). According to this theory, a state of affairs that has a universal as a property consists of a particular and a universal coming together, and a state of affairs that consists of a universal as a relation is when a universal and some particulars come together. There is a wide range of possible combinations for particulars and universals, and the result is that some are actualized while others are not.

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      • Philosophy 101: From Plato and Socrates to Ethics and Metaphysics, an Essential Primer on the History of Thought By Paul Kleinman



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Philosophy of NOMINALISM - Rejecting certain elements
Here is the article on Philosophy of NOMINALISM - Rejecting certain elements. It includes; Abstract objects, universals, Types of Niminalism about universals and TYPES OF NOMINALISM ABOUT ABSTRACT OBJECTS
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